The army of Israel is very much a people’s army. Most Israelis have some connection to the army – a father, son, husband or brother who is serving or who once served. A neighbor whose son is in now, a sister whose boyfriend is serving. The possibilities are endless but the result is all the same. Our hearts are touched by seeing soldiers. We don’t see the green uniform as foreign; we look at the eyes and face of the person. Too many in the world hear the word “soldier” and forget to see beyond the weapon. That isn’t a problem in Israel. This is the first time that the army is IN my family or that my family has been IN the army, but we have always been aware, always concerned, always connected to the army and our soldiers.
Even after serving for three years, most men continue to serve up to a month in the army until they are in their forties. It’s very common to have a meeting rescheduled because someone is in “miluim” (doing reserve duty). This connection with the army is very common because the army is very much made up of the people.
Tomorrow night, Elie will see this connection in a very personal way. The ceremony celebrating the completion of the Commanders Course will be held this Wednesday in a relatively small town which has no hotel, no bed-and-breakfast, no place where the army can house all the course participants, their commanding officers and those who will take part in the ceremony. Elie’s base is several hours away by bus and they want the soldiers to practice marching around a little and understand the program that will be presented to the families who will come from near and far to celebrate.
The solution is, in many ways, a uniquely Israeli one. Elie and the other soldiers will spend tomorrow night sleeping in someone’s home. Many families have volunteered to house the boys. Even more special – Elie’s group is comprised of many boys from religious families who only eat kosher food. And so the army checked to make sure that each of the families keep kosher and can adequately feed their guests.
So Israeli…so Israel and yet the fact that Elie mentioned it to me means that it touched him to know that someone, complete strangers, would open their homes…but I guess, that’s the whole point – no one is a complete stranger in Israel…not when it comes to our soldiers.